The Freedom-class littoral combat ship St. Louis during acceptance trials in 2019.

The Freedom-class littoral combat ship St. Louis during acceptance trials in 2019. U.S. Navy

Navy Has Fixed the Gears of Nearly Half of Its Freedom-Class Littoral Combat Ships

Eight ships have yet to get the combining-gear fix, including three the Navy wants to retire in two years.

The Navy has fixed the combining gear in nearly half of its Freedom-class littoral combat ships—including one it aims to decommission in two years.

“We are partway through the class of ships in installing that fix and restoring the ship to its full capability,” Rear Adm. Casey Moton, the program executive officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants, said during a House Oversight and Accountability subcommittee hearing Thursday.

The problem is “a design issue in the gear that should never have been there,” Moton said.

The Navy and shipbuilder Lockheed Martin are evenly paying for the repairs, though the cost “continues to be negotiated between the Navy and Lockheed Martin,” Navy spokeswoman Lt. Meagan Morrison said in an email. 

The service would normally be stuck with the entire bill for repairs discovered after it formally accepts a ship from its builder. But for the LCS gear problem, Moton said, officials were able to use a “contractual mechanism” to declare a “latent defect,”allowing them to “hold the building yard accountable for the mistake that they made.”

The Navy also did not accept delivery of new ships from the shipbuilder until a fix for the gear was found, Morrison said.

So far, seven ships have been repaired or had the improved gear added during construction. The first to get the fix was Minneapolis-Saint Paul in 2021, followed by Cooperstown last year. Sioux City, St. Louis, Marinette, and Nantucket have also been fixed, while Cleveland had the new gear installed during construction, Morrison said.

Still to be repaired: seven Freedom-class ships in active service and one that is currently fitting out.

Despite undertaking the repairs and paying for part of their cost, the Navy still appears willing to unburden itself of at least a few of the ships. In 2025, the service intends to decommission four Freedom-class ships that would be less than a decade old—Wichita, Billings, Indianapolis, and the just-repaired St. Louis—to make them available for foreign military sales.

Whether that will happen is up to Congress. After the Navy proposed to retire the entire Freedom class, lawmakers added language to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act forbidding the Navy to retire more than four of them.